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What do you do when your clients and prospects aren’t calling you with new work?
It’s tempting to call or email them and ask if they have any work for you. But most of the time that just makes you look desperate, like that guy in high school who kept asking the head cheerleader out. “Sorry, not this week.” Eventually, people stop returning your emails and calls.
So instead of making the email or call about you, make it about them. Focus on what your clients care about and they’ll remember you for being helpful — not for being a nag. Here’s how:
Send them articles about their industry
It doesn’t matter if you read the Washington Post or Huffington Post — or if you just surf Twitter all day — you’re bound to come across articles, videos or social media posts about your client’s industry. When you find something, send it to your client with a note telling them that it made you think of them, and you thought they’d enjoy it. Look for articles that focus on big-picture trends and strategy, not just straightforward news. Stay away from trade publications, since your clients probably already read those. And make sure you’re sharing information from reputable sources, so you don’t hurt your credibility.
Let them know what their competitors are doing.
If you do work for a gym and you see a new biking studio opening in your neighborhood, let your client know. If you freelance for a law firm and you see on Facebook that another firm is sponsoring a networking event, let your client know. Whether you’re working with mom-and-pop stores or Fortune 100 companies, everyone wants to know what their competition is doing, but they don’t always have the time and resources to find out. Simply by being an extra set of ears and eyes, you can help your clients stay informed — and stay ahead of the competition.
Share new ideas for their business.
Spend some time thinking about how your clients could grow their business in ways that have nothing to do with your skill set. Just because you’re a photographer doesn’t mean you can’t make suggestions about their email marketing. You’re a business owner, too — so think about what you would do if you ran their business. Remember, your clients hire you to help them achieve their business goals. Don’t limit yourself to what it says on your business card.
Help them hire great people.
If your client needs to hire someone, go through your LinkedIn contacts and see if you know someone who would be a perfect fit. Post the job listing on your social media feeds, and ask your friends and family if they know anyone. Helping your clients fill jobs does more than show that you care about their business. It helps ensure that they find good people, and it gives you more advocates inside their company. (And, if you help a friend get a job, you get bonus points with them, too.) Just make sure you’re upfront with your clients — if you only know someone personally, be careful about vouching for them professionally.
Why do these approaches work? Because you’re giving your clients something (information, leads, etc.) without asking for something in return.
Here’s the best part — even though you’re not asking for work, there’s a good chance you’ll get work out of it because you’re being helpful and staying top-of-mind with your clients. In fact, when I send one of these messages, I’ll often get a reply that says something like, “Thanks for sending this. I was actually just going to contact you about a project we have coming up….”
So the next time you’re looking for work, give one of these approaches a try. Worst-case scenario, you get the endorphin boost (and good karma) from helping someone. Best-case scenario? You get grateful clients, stronger relationships and more work.
Mike Gluck is the author of 40 Freelancing Secrets: Get Work. Get Paid, Have Fun. — a book for freelancers who want to get more clients, earn more money and enjoy the freelance lifestyle.